"Leadership Profiles" is a CTC series on the leaders, volunteers, and team members who drive all aspects of the organization and its communities.
Doug Henry joined the California Technology Council as Chief Commercial Officer in 2017. We interviewed Doug regarding his goals and vision for the role, and his many years of experience running commercial operations leading up to CTC.
Prior to joining CTC, Doug worked for more than three decades for leading scientific companies including Bio-Rad Laboratories and Fisher Scientific.
CTC: You've run commercial organizations across very large companies. You've also volunteered in nonprofits. What was appealing about coming to CTC to raise the level of strategy and performance here?
DH: The appeal to me was the chance to leverage my experience in the for-profit world in order to advance a non-profit organization (CTC) devoted to a cause that I believe in: the development of technology-based business in California. Many of the challenges facing for-profit and non-profit organizations are the same. For example, it seems that neither group never has enough resources to meet its goals. But non-profit organizations such as CTC are especially vulnerable to turnover in talented staff, as volunteers are constantly being pulled away by the demands of their for-profit employers. I hope to add some continuity to CDC by committing to be around for a while.
CTC: You've seen that many members have opportunities to capture more value from member benefits. What do you think has been most surprising to you about the value available to members in all our programs?
DH: There are a couple of things that have surprised me about our member benefits. First, CTC has been very creative in capturing member benefits that are outside of the more traditional benefits. For example, many organizations (including CTC) provide access to deeply discounted office supplies. But how many provide access to a high-traffic job board devoted to technology companies, or to cyber-security risk-assessment? One of the biggest challenges we face with member benefits is exposing our programs to the correct contacts within our membership. We are undertaking significant restructuring this year to make that happen.
CTC: Your experience at large, science-based organizations is valuable to CTC as well as to members developing those types of products. You served as a judge at a First Pitch event related to diagnostics and personalized medicine. What was that experience like?
DH: I was very surprised by the variety of markets and products that were represented at First Pitch. As someone who has spent a lifetime selling and supporting products that already exist, it is exciting to listen to people who are envisioning the future and how to address unmet needs. I was also struck by the overall high level of preparedness and quality of the presentations.
CTC: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs hoping to build an equipment or diagnostics company?
DH: I am not unique in my advice here, but I would offer these tenets:
1. Focus on a product that has sustainable differentiation. (If your competition can catch up to you in one year, you may be wasting your time.)
2. Favor quality over price. (Entering a new market at a disruptively low price may not work out the way you planned)
3. Favor revenue over cost. (Getting product into key customer’s hands immediately at launch requires spending a lot of money)
4. Be sure that the service and support infrastructure is in place and trained prior to launch.
CTC: What's one thing that every company building that type of product needs to know about things that happen when you reach commercial scale?
DH: It is very difficult to predict the angle of inclination of the sales ramp following launch. The supply chain may have some key raw materials that have long lead times. If sales move faster than expected, it may be very difficult for manufacturing to respond. Being sure that each component has a qualified secondary source is crucial.
CTC: What sort of challenge do you hope CTC and its members and communities will bring you in the next year or two?
DH: The challenges are already lining up! We need to bolster and add to our member benefits. We need to improve communication between our benefits providers and our membership. And we need to improve the tools available to us to make this happen. These initiatives are already under way.
CTC: Favorite book about business?
DH: This one is easy. The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think, by Michael Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed. There are many popular books by a variety of Gurus that provide insight and advice. However, most of them merely reflect the author’s opinion, and are not validated by solid data or evidence. This book delivers both.
CTC: Favorite movie about selling?
DH: This one is hard. But Glengarry Glen Ross gets my vote. Good film can exaggerate or show extremes, both positive and negative, in order to shine light on humanity. And this film is no exception.